Pancreatic Cancer

Proactive approach helps Chicago pastor beat pancreatic cancer

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Genetic testing led to an MRI and then an ultrasound for a Chicago pastor, whose proactive approach helped her catch pancreatic cancer early.

That cancer was an unexpected diagnosis for Brenda Bravatty, pastor at Iglesia Casa de Misericordia, a Chicago church.

“I was totally shocked, shocked,” Bravatty said.

The tumor was only discovered because Bravatty was proactive about her health. She met with her gynecologist and shared her family history. The gynecologist recommended Bravatty undergo genetic cancer screening.

“Between 2018-2020, my two brothers got diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and talking to the doctor, she said, ‘No, I think you should get tested,” Bravatty said.

The wife and mom of two children learned she was predisposed for pancreatic cancer because of a genetic mutation.

That’s when she met with Dr. Rajesh Keswani, an interventional gastroenterologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, who recommended an MRI.

“In this case, the MRI was actually normal, but because of our family history, we actually pursued further testing,” Keswani said.

An endoscopic ultrasound found the tiny tumor, about one centimeter in size, which was a surprise for Dr. Keswani.

“She was feeling well, so I was surprised it was seen. It's kind of funny, we do screenings, but we always expect it to be normal, right?” Keswani said.

He was also relieved Bravatty had acted proactively.

“You can't control whether you're going to develop something or not, especially with this sort of genetic background. But the best thing you can do is try to catch it early. And we were very fortunate to catch it early in this case,” Keswani said.

Dr. Keswani said Brenda’s story shows it’s important to have a doctor you can talk with about genetic testing. And it’s also important to really know your family history.

“There’s a lot of people that I see that are worried about a cancer, but they don't actually know what their relatives have because people don't talk about it, right? Oh, they died at a young age, but no one ever told me why,” Keswani said.

Bravatty underwent surgery to remove the tumor and went through several rounds of chemotherapy.

“I'm cancer-free. And because of the early detection, I'm cured. And I'm just so thankful,” Bravatty said. “The fact that the doctor told me 'you should get tested,' that really made a big difference.”

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